The world of video games is a dynamic place, where everything from graphics to gameplay is constantly being fine-tuned or revolutionized on an almost monthly basis. In so many ways sports are the same, with fans growing bored if they are not fed with new storylines alongside different competitions and tournaments to feast their eyes on. Unfortunately, one product that spans both these industries has failed to keep pace, despite the huge demand for it, and that is the sports video game.
In this article we look at why sports video games fail to deliver on a perennial basis and what can be done to turn their fortunes around.
Tired Formats and Franchises – US Sports Suffer the Most
Some sports video games simply haven’t changed for years, with only the gloss of better graphics painting over the cracks of the same old game in dire need of a complete re-work. In this regard it appears to be US sports fans who get the short straw, with the likes of the Madden franchise in the NFL and EA’s NHL series of games acting as a case in point.
This has even led to games regressing, with many NHL video game fans clamoring for a return to the days of NHL 09 or 10, when the game featured innovative side challenges such as three-on-three. Although such gaming titles still sell by the bucketload every year, the danger is that their popularity will be overtaken by other forms of games. After all, none of the top streamed games on the likes of Twitch or Mixer are sports related.
Other Sports Entertainment Platforms Show the Way
When it comes to innovation that sports game developers can turn to for inspiration there are plenty of options in other areas of sports entertainment. Behind the scenes shows run by major sports television networks go on the hunt for rich storylines to mine as well as giving fascinating detail about what it takes to reach the top. So few sports games ever bother to do this and almost never feature backroom staff or practice squad players, all of whom could feed into richer and more engaging storylines.
Another place where innovation has outstripped that shown in video gaming is in the world of online sports betting. In this arena, companies have adapted quickly to the surge in mobile gaming around the world, producing apps and products that allow customers to access sports odds whether they are in Las Vegas or the UK. They combine this ease of access with intuitive controls and real time stats, two things that are sadly missing in mobile versions of sports video games.
Rights Deals Kill Drive for Creativity
One of the main issues blighting the sports video game is the rights package deals that large developers acquire from sports leagues. This has led to a seeming stagnation of creativity and willingness to take risks, because the developer who owns the rights knows they will make a profit no matter how their game plays. As competition among sports leagues mounts, as well as the threat from eSports looming on the horizon, it may be time for leagues such as the NFL and NBA to test the waters with other developers who can do a better job of promoting their league’s brand.
Some Games Shine a Light for Others to Follow
When it comes to true innovation in sports video games the market leaders tend to come from places you wouldn’t expect, such as niche extreme sports. If you haven’t played Dirt Rally yet then you should; likewise with SSX, which allows you to snowboard in wild locations and adds extra dimensions to an already radical sport.
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